Zimbabwe protest leader’s day in court gathers thousands
Evans Mawarire, one of the co-founders of the #ThisFlag demonstration that has seen thousands of people stay away from work in protest at the government’s inability to turn around the economy, was faced with a new charge of ‘subverting a constitutional government’ at Rotten Row Magistrates Court in Harare after he was arrested on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe is facing implosion, its citizens are hungry and angry
More than 100 lawyers have appeared at proceedings to represent Mawawire in solidarity with the defendant.
The churchman has led street demonstrations, which culminated in a day-long shut down of the country on 6 July, protesting at the regime of 92-year old President Robert Mugabe. “Enough is enough,” Mawarire told Reuters. “The response has been outstanding”.
An earlier demonstration on 4 July was hit by heavy police repression. Tear-gas, water-cannon and helicopters were deployed against Zimbabweans angry at delays in civil service salary payments, with spontaneous protests spreading to multiple cities.
Some analysts believe the opposition in Zimbabwe may have a new leader. Evans has skilfully blended moral authority with social media, starting the #ThisFlag movement that appropriates the regime’s own nationalist rhetoric. Church leaders have followed his lead, bringing politics into their Sunday sermons.
The speed with which the regime has moved to close him down suggests he has rattled the leadership.
For now, the arresting of protest leaders, the payment of civil servants, and the reduction in police roadblocks has dampened protests. But with the country on a knife-edge, many see more trouble ahead.
“Zimbabwe is facing implosion, its citizens are hungry and angry”, explains Tendai Biti, minister of finance during the brief coalition between Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) from 2009-2013. “Meanwhile, the ruling party is riven with factions, and their only language of mediation is political violence.”
[*This article has been amended – it previously stated incorrectly that the court proceedings had been called off 13/07/16 18:15 CAT]